Inside information & tips on what to see, do, eat, & special places to stay; Ireland, London & beyond!
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Take a Break Away from Your Fellow Irish:: Norway is off the beaten track for Irish folk, & one of my favorite places to visit! snowy fjord and red cabin

Norway is off the beaten track for Irish folk, & one of my favorite places to visit!

Break Away From the Pack 2016

I found this information rather interesting, as well as somewhat amusing. Personally I’ve not really thought about any stereotypes of the Irish abroad, but I do understand the desire to go somewhere where you don’t keep bumping into folk from the ‘home place.’ This could be difficult if you’re Irish, because the Irish are spread everywhere! There are even Irish pubs in Mongolia, Cambodia, and Nepal. (See on the far flung Irish Pubs here.)

Personally, I can recommend the #2 listed destination less visited by Irish folk: Norway. I found it to be every bit as beautiful as the photos you see online, and yes, we got to see the Northern Lights in Norway! We also stayed in a beautiful fjord-side cabin from the 1880s– which saved us lots of money…sadly, this is not renting in 2016, but it gives you an idea of the options out there beyond hotels if you’d really like to get off the beaten track. Have a look and see if any of the other destinations appeal to you, and which ones you may like to avoid if you are indeed looking to take a break away from your fellow Irish 😉

Take a break away from your fellow Irish! reveals where to go to avoid other Irish travellers this year!

Dublin, 12 January 2016: Starting to plan your 2016 getaways? Maybe it’s time to break the mould and explore somewhere new this year, discover a country where you can truly get away from the Irish abroad!

We all know the cringe inducing stereotypes of the Irish abroad; you can hear the accents and spot the standard holiday uniform from a mile away. With Barry’s tea in our suitcases and an emergency pack of crisps in our carry-on bags we Irish are even more cliché when we are overseas. With thousands of holiday destinations available on the world is your oyster, so think outside the box and plan to visit more unusual destinations this year!

Popular destinations for European travellers, but not amongst Irish travellers:

1: Austria  2:Norway  3: China 4: Hong Kong  5: Singapore

If you’re looking to stay close to home consider the alpine gem of Switzerland, where you can gather your thoughts in the fresh mountain air or discover the majestic fjords of Norway. Further afield why not plan a trip to the orient; to China, Hong Kong, Singapore, where you can learn about ancient art and culture with the added benefit of being much less likely to encounter other Irish travellers!

Reindeer at the Sami festival reindeer racing in Tromso, Norway. Take a break away from your fellow Irish!

Not an Irish animal, anyway! Reindeer at the Sami festival reindeer racing in Tromso, Norway

Top destinations for Irish holidaymakers in 2015:

1: United States of America   2: United Kingdom  3: Germany  4: Spain & Canary Islands  5: France

The top destination for Irish holiday makers abroad last year was the US. While the whole of America obviously shouldn’t be missed, if you need a break from the Irish brogue you might want to skip J1 hotspots like New York, San Diego and Chicago in the summer months. If you are looking for a more multicultural holiday this year consider choosing from the suggested destinations where Irish people are much less likely to travel then their European counterparts.

“People often choose traditional destinations based on advice from family or friends who have visited before, or are inspired by pictures shared on social media,”
Andy Washington, Managing Director for says. People also like the comfort of the known; many find themselves returning to the same holiday hotspots year in year out, so it’s not unusual to run into other Irish people while you’re away. However if anyone is looking to make a fresh start in 2016, has some great ideas for hidden gems popular among European travellers, but less known to the Irish traveller. We hope this will provide some new ideas and inspire those looking for something a little different. Those on a budget will also find that can save more by booking their flight and hotel at the same time using”

5 Great October Holiday Deals from Ireland

5 Great October Holiday Deals from Ireland

5 great last minute October getaway deals – out of Ireland

I figure it is only fair to acknowledge that some of you (and sometimes me, too!) like to travel out of Ireland for October Bank Holiday & Midterm breaks. I was given the scoop on 5 good October holiday deals on; from family fun in Barcelona, to rugby in London, to Vegas baby!

Explore Secret Brussels with Wondrous Wanders

Explore Secret Brussels with Wondrous Wanders

Which tempt you? Maybe the Dominican Hotel on the 15th century abbey site in Brussels? I know someone who does fantastic Brussels walking tours; Wondrous Wanders— do check them out! **UPDATE: Wendy from Wondrous Wanders just told me the Dominican Hotel is one of her favorites! Ace recommendation!**

Leave the Halloween ghouls and ghosts behind and grab yourself a great last minute deal

After a disappointing summer some travellers may be looking to sneak in one last holiday before winter weather takes hold. With that in mind, has curated some great deals for getaways during the October bank holiday and mid-term break for those who want to escape the Halloween trick-or-treaters at home or who are in search of some ghouls and ghosts abroad.

Las Vegas has become an increasingly popular destination for Irish travellers with bookings to the city from Dublin through up  100% year on year.* Sin City takes Halloween very seriously, with themed parties in many of the bars on the strip, haunted house tours and the annual Las Vegas Halloween Parade.

Return flights for two and a six night stay in the 4-star Palms Casino Resort start from €821 per person sharing, including taxes and fees, an average saving of €115 altogether when booking flight and hotel together through Fly from Dublin Airport to Las Vegas via Newark airport on Tuesday 27th October, returning on Monday 2nd November 2015.

Chase the sun and discover Barcelona with the family. Those looking for a family getaway closer to home should consider spending the bank holiday in Barcelona. The city offers many family friendly tours including a day trip to Port Aventura, a tour of FC Barcelona and a child-friendly medieval tour of the Gothic Quarter.

Return flights for two adults and two children with a stay in the 3½ star 2-bedroom Sweet Inn Apartments for three nights from €461 per person sharing, an average saving of €138 altogether when flights and hotel are booked together. Fly from Dublin direct to Barcelona on Friday 23rd of October returning on Monday 26th of October 2015.

Soak up the atmosphere of the Rugby semi- finals in London. Despite the high attendance of Irish fans at the rugby matches this month, there are still flight and hotel deals to London for the Bank Holiday, which coincides with the semi-final games, if you’re hoping to soak up the atmosphere in London. The city also offers plenty of ‘spooktacular’ tours for travellers looking to get into the Halloween spirit, including a Grim Reaper Walking Tour around 15th century East End Streets, a Ghosts of the City evening walking tour and of course tours of the Harry Potter sets at the Warner Brothers Studios.

Return flights for two and a three night stay in the 4-star Re London Shoreditch from just €374 per person sharing, an average saving of €61 per person, when flying from Dublin direct to London Heathrow on Friday 23rd of October returning on Monday 26th of October.

Looking for a bank holiday with a difference? From former prisons to converted monasteries, has a range of hotels with a twist for those looking for a spooky getaway. The Lloyd Hotel and Culture Embassy in Amsterdam is the first 1 to 5 star design hotel in the world, and in its previous life was used as a shelter for Jewish refugees before World War II, as an adult prison, and later became a juvenile detention centre before becoming a hotel in 2001, a seriously spooky setting to spend All Hallow’s Eve. A 3-Star room for two people for two nights starts at €193 per person sharing, an average saving of €70 altogether from the 30th of October to the 1st of November 2015 when booking through

The Dominican hotel situated on the site of a fifteenth century abbey in Brussels is another eerie hotel which could give you chills, if you’re looking for a place to haunt on Halloween night, with vaulted ceilings and sweeping archways sure to set the mood. Two nights for two people sharing from only €135 per person, an average saving of €30 when booking through


Happy travelling this October!

Romagna Italy, man works in vineyard

Flashing a fab smile in a Romagna vineyard!

Of course you have heard of the famous Tuscany region in Italy, but have you heard of Romagna?

This delightful area running up to & along the Adriatic sea is much less known to visitors from Ireland, the US and UK. Often combined with the more widely known Emilio area (Emilio-Romagna,) Romagna on its own is a perfect destination for enjoying the feel of real Italian life— especially if you adore good food and wine. Romagna is renowned even amongst the otherwise totally region-loyal Italians for its delicious fare! Romagna region Italy

Settimana del BuonVivere!

Each September the region has a ‘Week of Good Living’, Settimana del Buon Vivre in Italian, celebrating and exploring the bounty & community of Romagna. It was during this exciting time (bonus: hello warmth & sunshine– September in Romagna feels like an ace Irish summer!) that I was invited by the event’s organizers to come and experience some of the food, wine, nature and history of the region. I was completely won over by Romagna, and especially buzzed off the fact that I never really encountered many other English speaking visitors– it felt rather like discovering an Italian secret 😉 (Likewise, if you click the Week of Good Living Buon Vivre link above, use Google translate; it’s in Italian.)

Here are a few suggestions to explore in Romagna:

–> Get slathered in warm healing mud!

It is wonderful! Funny (well, I was giggling as I got mudded up) and highly relaxing at the same time, this is a treatment you can receive with the special local mud at Spa Riolo Terme. If you have aches and pains from issues like arthritis as I do, I think you will especially enjoy being cocooned in the warm mud. You’ll be wrapped in white sheets after the mud is applied, and left to relax as the warmth soaks right into your very bones. Ahhh, bliss!

A visit to The Riolo Terme Spa’s warm mineral water pool, with room for gentle swimming as well as massaging jets & fountains, is another delight. Just remembering makes me wish I was in there now… They’ve also one of their renowned healing mineral waters available to drink,— but that is not a delight! It is quite sulfurous- hold your nose & down it! 🙂 Here’s the scoop from their site regarding the Spring Mud:

Vulcanetto di fango curativo

About to be slathered in mud, Riolo Terme Spa, Romagna Italy

A sneaky- thus blurry- spa pic! Here I”m about to lie in the mud & have it slathered all over me!, Riolo Terme Spa, Romagna Italy

The very fine curative mud of Terme di Riolo is unique in Emilia Romagna in that it “springs“, or spontaneously emerges from the ground, pushed by gas from “little volcanoes”, or mud springs, situated near the spa, and is already Naturelly mixed with salso-bromo-iodine thermal water. The mud of Terme di Riolo displays characteristics which are extremely interesting from the standpoint of heat retention capacity and ion exchange capacity (Official Analyses of the Hydrology and Environmental Protection Section of the Department of Pharmacology II, Faculty of Medicine and Surgery of the University of Pavia, July 1989).
Thanks to its origin, it is extremely plastic, with a velvety texture, and highly penetrable.

Once collected, it undergoes a maturation process in special tubs until acquiring the clinical, physical, biological and therapeutic characteristics that make it the ideal means for an anti-inflammatory, anti-pain, muscle-relaxing and revitalizing therapy.

Vulcanetto di fango curativo

Main clinical indications:

  • Osteoarticular disorders: rheumoarthropathies in quiescent phases, such as post-injury primary or secondary arthritis, fibromyositic rheumatism, chronic gout in joints
  • Skin: acne, psoriasis, seborrhoea, chronic eczema, urticaria, dystrophic lesions
  • Peripheral vasculopathies, water retention and cellulite

At Terme di Riolo, spring mud is used:

  • In Mud therapy (total and partial hot mud applications)
  • In Naturel Methods (leg wraps with cold virgin mud and essential oils, according to Kneipp hydrotherapy)
  • In Thermal Aesthetic treatments (virgin mud face mask, cosmetic virgin mud body and scalp wraps)

–> Savour a special Medicinal Herb Garden, & a glorious meal!

The medicinal herb garden info

The medicinal herb garden info

Il Giardino Delle Erbe is stunningly situated on a hillside along a steep & picturesque valley. Here they grow herbs and fruits of many varieties, used since medieval times. The centre is dedicated to expanding the knowledge of these plants, both in their cultivation and uses. The Garden is located in the Casola Valsenio area, part of Italy’s Chalk Vein. The Garden can also do guided tours for small groups with a couple of days notice. Additionally, there are seasonal events, such as this interesting one in October:


“Festival of forgotten fruits: the second and third weekend of October farms Casola Valsenio exhibit in the historic fruits once cultivated or gathered in the woods for food. You may find blackthorn, cornelian, rowan berries, pomegranates, etc. azzeruole. And ‘possible to participate in tasting workshops and cookery, contests of jams and liqueurs with the forgotten fruits.”

Not far from the herb garden is one of my favorite restaurants in Romagna, Il Cardello Locanda. The ‘ohh-ahh’ location alongside the vineyards, the charming stone buildings, the fantastic food, wine and service had all of us in raptures. This restaurant is high on my return-to list! It may be a cliche, but it is often true– the best Italian food is made by the Mamas. You’ll see some of them at work creating the deliciousness at Il Cardello Locanda in my video down below. Here’s some background from Cardello Locanda:

“The “Cardello Locanda” came into being on an estate owned by the Casa Oriani Fund in the Regional Park of the Romagna Chalk Vein, following thorough renovation of the old farmhouse known as “Mingotta”. The former threshing floor and the surrounding landscape evoke deep roots in an ancient peasant civilisation. For example the little stable belonging to the family that lived here is still intact and you can make out the spaces for the animals, a wood-burning oven and a well preserved hayloft built in accordance with the local criteria of the day. Cookery at the inn is closely linked to the flavours of the area, to the importance of seasonal ingredients and to a desire to offer guests the products of our land. Herbs, meat, vegetables, cheeses and wines are selected with care and attention, always seeking quality and niche products. Our kitchens are mainly supplied by local producers, and our special close collaboration with the Casola Valsenio Medicinal Herb Garden contributes significantly to enrichment of the flavours of the territory which arouse lively interest.”

Wine & Alessandra; Romagna Italy

Wine & Alessandra; Romagna Italy

–> Discover a Romagna varietal wine 

For an absolute plethora of amazing wines, prodcuced both locally and beyond, an evening at Cantine Antica Grotta in Riolo is unmissable. Located near the medieval castle La Rocca di Riolo of  Caterina Sforza, the fascinating Tigress of Forli, (TIP: the castle is a fab place to watch the sun set,) Antica Grotta restaurant & wine bar is a treasure trove of heavenly wines and tantalizing local food. This man knows & loves his wines!

One vineyard that is well off the beaten tourist track (their wines not sold in shops) is Noelia Ricci. You can also taste their Rosolio produced with their own pomegranates! I saw so many of these fruit trees growing in Romagna– the landscape is delightful and mouthwatering! Find out how you can visit the vineyard, here, from Italian sommelier (writing in English) Alessandra Catania.

Be sure to watch the video! These are just a few of the joys of visiting Romagna. In my next post on the Romagna area, I’ll bring you up to the coast.

Click for more on what the Casola Valsenio and the Riolo areas offer –do avail of Google translate as these sites are in Italian.  

Many thanks to Settimana del Buon Vivre for having me over to explore Romagna! I hope to return many times & enjoy the Italian good life. See you in Romagna, readers! 😀

[youtube_sc url=”” title=”Romagna%20Italy%20Delights”]

PS- If you love authentic Italian food, read this article on a great way to get the most out of food in Venice.

On the trip with me were 

you can check out what they loved about Romagna as well!

Summer festivals in Ireland -- Sunflower Fest in Lisburn & More!

Summer festivals in Ireland — Sunflower Fest in Lisburn & More!

Summer festivals in Ireland are an excitingly varied bunch. From motorcycles to plein air painting, family fun, bluegrass or beer, here are eight epic Irish events.

PS, if you are seriously missing the scorching sun, I’ve thrown in two interesting festivals in Spain 😀 Enjoy!

Plein Air Painting Festival in Wexford Ireland 2015

Plein Air Painting Festival in Wexford

Europe’s largest ‘Art in the Open’ Festival commences in Wexford

Many scenic vistas in the Southeast will be captured by some of the world’s finest ‘Plein Air’ artists this week as Europe’s largest outdoor painting festival Art in the Open runs now til August 3 2015.

A large number of high profile international artists have descended on County Wexford coming from thirteen countries including Australia, Canada, Norway, Sweden and of course the US, UK and Ireland to compete for up to €5,000 in awards. The paint-out Artists can enter two paintings for the Gala Exhibition and these will be on display at in the Old Library in Wellington Place, Wexford town centre Sunday 2nd August at 3pm.

The Art in the Open festival is based on the concept that all work is created outdoors at a daily paint-out location.  Artists must register at each paint-out with a blank canvas which is stamped daily and over the next few hours must capture their own image of the beautiful surroundings.

The public are encouraged to watch this creative process at any of the six paint-out locations, including the infamous Hook Head, the fishing village of Kilmore Quay, the historic Wells House near Gorey and the Viking town of Wexford or enjoy the Charity Quick Draw which will take place at Wexford’s Bullring on Sunday 2nd August at 1pm. The public are welcome to join in this fun event for a €5 registration fee.  Proceeds will go to the Windmill Therapeutic Centre.

Other highlights of the festival include a free lecture by Sinead Rice of the National Gallery of Ireland at the National Opera House on Bank Holiday Monday, August 3rd.  Several workshops and demonstrations take place throughout the week by well-known international artists, including Leon Holmes from Australia, Vincent Crotty from the USA, Antti Rautiola from Finland and Rachel Personett from the USA.

See more at


Summer festival fun in Lisburn

Summer festival fun in Lisburn

Birr Vintage Week

“Turn back time in the beautiful Georgian heritage town of Birr! Revel in its contemporary culture with a dynamic range of vintage and modern events for all ages during the Annual Birr Vintage Week & Arts Festival 31 July – 7 August 2015.

The all-inclusive programme includes the fantastic opening parade with its display of vintage, equestrian and community entries; artisan and craft market; the Ormand Flying Club’s Annual Fly-In and display; the Olde Time Traditional Fair; busking competition; free children’s events; antiques and fine art fair; a donkey derby; live music; sporting and literary events; nightly pub entertainment; and a spectacular fireworks display which will illuminate the skies above the town.

The Arts play a central role with a visually stunning and exciting visual arts trail, theatre performances, contemporary dance classes, film screenings and workshops in various mediums taking place across the town. With annual favourites and new events, vintage flavour and modern entertainment throughout, Birr Vintage Week & Arts Festival promises to be an exciting and vibrant event celebrating this charming town’s heritage and culture.”


Feakle Traditional Music Festival

5 – 10 August, 2015

In the little village of Feakle, County Clare, a traditional music festival started almost 30 years ago. It tapped into the area’s amazing wealth of local talent, and Feakle is now recognized internationally by those in-the-know as a centre of traditional music in Ireland. The festival is packed with workshops for musicians, and sessions all week for those of us who just love to listen. 🙂 East Clare is a beautiful area full of quiet lakes, gorgeous green hills, charming boreens lined with hedgerows & stonewalls, and traditionally cut bogs — yet it is off the beaten tourist track; perfect for getting into the heart of ‘authentic Ireland.’ Come explore!

See more at:

Music in Lisburn ©Brian Thompson Photography

Music at Festivals Lisburn ©Brian Thompson Photography

Summer in Lisburn

Don’t forget Northern Ireland on your quest to experience summer festivals in Ireland! There’s a jam-packed end of summer festival season in Lisburn, starting on 3 August 2015.

If it’s action you’re after, why not head to Lisburn from Monday 3rd August to Saturday 8th August for a week of exhilarating motorcycle race events at Dundrod, culminating in the international Grand Prix, the world’s fastest road race. With vantage points both inside and outside the circuit, the Ulster Grand Prix is fun for all the family.

Lisburn also plays host to incredible local and international music talent this summer.  This year’s Sunflowerfest brings British band Dreadzone, rap rock band Senser and a host of other artists and performers to Tubby’s Farm, Hillsborough.

Hilden Beer & Music Festival

Enjoy a tipple at Hilden Beer & Music Festival

The Hilden Beer and Music Festival is not to be missed. Hosting three stages and stocking over thirty ales, stouts, lagers and ciders sourced from the UK and Ireland, the three-day open air festival is held on the grounds of Hilden Brewery in Lisburn, the oldest independent brewery on the island of Ireland. Interesting- I must check this out myself!

Music at Hilden Beer & Music Festival

Music at Hilden Beer & Music Festival

Are you more of a foodie than a groupie? Well, Lisburn tells me they have it all and it’s the best around. From the Hillsborough International Oyster Festival (Tuesday 1st – Sunday 6th September) to a family day at Ballance House’s Raspberry and Tea Day, there are all kinds of delicious, beloved and brand new foods to taste. If you are just out and about in Lisburn, there are plenty of bars, cafes and restaurants, or if you’re feeling like splurging pop into one of the city’s many trendy boutiques.

Contact Lisburn Visitor Information Centre on 028 9266 0038 for details on events, attractions, activities, shopping and hospitality in the area. Visit the Lisburn & Castlereagh website, Like on Facebook or follow on Twitter

Terryglass Arts Festival

12 – 15 August 2015

Terryglass Arts Festival is known for its innovative arts programme, and they’ve a huge amount of workshops available- over 70! Definitely book early, as these fascinating & fun workshops will fill up quickly (see a few below.)

Other highlights include: Paddy Casey, Blood Red Mountain Band and Molly Sterling. For theatre fans there is ‘Back Seat’ and for Art lovers this years festival features Michal Ray’s ‘Nest’ and Paraic Leahy’s ‘Creatures of Costume’ exhibitions. Family entertainment includes Fidget Feet, Jack Wise, Niall de Burca, Dabbledoo and a Fireworks finale.

Here is a sampling of the fab workshops:

Science Soup – Stir up some trouble with alien mixes! Prepare things that go bang, and some other strange fixes! Measure things that go fizz and some more that go slop, and finish it off with some things that just pop! (Wear old clothes)

Alien Slime – A fun science workshop that investigates alien life. Make the slime and the aliens that would live in it!

Shadow Play with Joanna Williams from Little Bigtop–  Join Joanna Williams to explore and play with shadow. Participants will learn how to make a shadow grow and shrink, explore the shadow effects of different materials and find out how to make simple shadow puppets using coloured gels.

Pallet Furniture & Sign Design– Work with local carpenter, Dave Corboy from Revived and Retro, to design something creative and useful which will be displayed in the village during the remainder of the festival. Materials supplied.

Head over to the county Tipperary side of lovely Lough Derg and experience one of the most creative summer festivals in Ireland!

See more at www.


The Claire Lynch band will play Dunmore East Bluegrass summer festival in Ireland

The Claire Lynch band will play Dunmore East Bluegrass summer festival in Ireland

Bluegrass in Dunmore East – 21 years and going strong; Guinness International Bluegrass Festival returns to its roots for 2015

 The 21st Dunmore East Bluegrass Festival kicks off on Thursday, August 27th and heralds the start of three days of dozens of bands, playing over 50 gigs in the villages’ pubs, restaurants and hotels.

Fans of bluegrass, honky-tonk, blues, country, and rhythm ‘n’ roots are in for a musical treat as the Guinness International Bluegrass Festival returns for the 21st year this summer!

The picturesque Co. Waterford seaside village Dunmore East hosts the Bluegrass Festival from the 27th to  the 30th of August, and the 2015 line-up is as impressive as ever.

Credited by Dolly Parton as being “one of the sweetest, purest and best lead voices in the music business today,”  Claire Lynch will be at the festival for the first time. Having won a host of music awards, along with two Grammy nominations, Claire developed her love of  bluegrass  and country music when she moved from New York to Alabama at the age of 12.

In the 1970’s Claire fronted the Front Porch String Band, until forming her own Claire Lynch Band in 2005.  Since then Claire and her band have consistently been in demand with festival audiences across the US.

“Claire is a pioneer of bluegrass and country music and we are delighted that she will be playing at the International Bluegrass Festival in Dunmore East,” Festival founder and organiser, Mick Daly said. “Not only has she a couple of Grammy nominations, Digital Journal placed her in the Top Ten of “Most Angelic voices of our time”, putting her on an equal footing with music legends such as Dolly Parton, Sarah McLachlan, Emmylou Harris and Alison Krauss.”

Big name Irish, European and American bluegrass acts playing free gigs include Demolition String Band (USA), New Section (Cze), Cup O’ Joe (Northern Ireland), The Mons Wheeler Band (NI), the Down and Out Bluegrass Band (NI), Land’s End (UK / Ire) and Irish bands Jigjam and Barefoot.

Another American band making their Dunmore East debut is Whiskey Deaf, made up by Annie Staninec and John Kael.  Born and bred on bluegrass music, Staninec has toured the world, featured on countless albums with renowned country, Cajun and blues artists. Kael, an established songwriter, has been playing bluegrass guitar, mandolin, banjo and bass for over twenty years.  His award winning song “Handmade Cross”, features on Grammy nominated album, Hard Love, by Doyle Lawson.

Whilst the Claire Lynch Band will play a ticketed intimate gig on Sunday, August 30th, all the other events throughout the village are free.

For more information about the 21st Guinness International Dunmore East Bluegrass Festival line-up in Co. Waterford visit

For ticket information and bookings for The Claire Lynch band, email or Discover Dunmore on Facebook and Twitter.


BUT… I need heat and tons of sun, I hear some of you cry! Ok then, what about these 2 unusual summer festivals in Spain?

The Viking invasion festival in Spain

The Viking invasion festival in Spain

Some of the most fascinating festivals that are celebrated in Spain are re-enactments. Every year, on the first Sunday of August (this year on the 2nd of August), the residents of Catoira (Pontevedra, Galicia) stage a spectacular re-enactment of the Viking invasions that occurred a thousand years ago.
The climax of the Viking Festival from Catoira is marked by the arrival of the “invaders” on board a replica 11th-century Viking vessel with the goal of capturing Torres del Oeste Castle, a fortified structure from the 11th century that is one of the most important archaeological and historical legacies in Galicia. Local residents try to resist and attack in festive atmosphere, where the participants end up completely soaked with wine. Folk groups, a picnic with octopus, grilled sardines, pies… and the pleasant sound of typical bagpipes in the background add charm to this fiesta.

A different kind of battle, although not exactly a re-enactment, takes places every year in Buñol (Valencia). “The Tomatina” tomato festival originated from a children’s fight in 1945 and has been celebrated ever since on the last Wednesday of August (this year on the 26th of August). Participants have a wonderful time throwing tomatoes at anything that moves. Save the date, if you want to paint the town red in your next visit to Spain.

So, which summer festivals in Ireland will YOU go to? Are you tempted to also top up on your sunshine in Spain? Hope you can enjoy the best of both 🙂

This July, break out your hairspray & return to the glory days of the 80’s- Spandau Ballet are playing at the fabulous Eden Project on the 9th!

YHA has great value accommodation for this gig, and I’m a huge fan of staying with them, so I’m passing on this info to you. Be sure to share photos if you go!! 😀
Spandau Ballet are coming to the Eden Project!

Spandau Ballet are coming to the Eden Project!

John Keeble, Steve Norman, Tony Hadley, Martin Kemp and Gary Kemp will play at the Eden Project as part of their Soulboys of the Western World tour, described by The Times as “Setting the gold standard in arena soul-boy rock”.

Spandau Ballet have sold more than 25 million records and had multi-platinum albums and 23 hit singles across the world since they began as a group of friends with dreams of stardom back in the late 1970s. It wouldn’t be long before they established themselves asa one of the super-groups of the 80s.

After two decades apart, the band reformed in 2009 and embarked on a sell-out tour.


Location: Eden Project, Date: 9th July 2015

Overnight stay:YHA Eden Project – we have on-site accommodation available for the gig including camping from just £12.50 per person, bell tents from £120 per night for up to six people, and our Snoozebox rooms from £89 per night.
Booking details: Visit Eden Project to book tickets. To book on-site accommodation, visitYHA Eden Project. More information about the other Eden Sessions can be found here.

mr.magregor's garden painting

Mr. Magregor’s Garden

An Irish Art Gallery – The Doorway Gallery – is popping up in London!

London is one of the best big cities in the world when it comes to seeing art, much of it cutting edge. But sometimes, especially in the buzz of a 24 hour city, you crave a bit of comfort and a escape away from the harder edges of urban life. Some of the Irish art coming over to London for a special pop-up gallery the week of 26 Oct – 2 November will give you that romantic softness you may crave, as well as other styles to enjoy.

Why not call by, and perhaps Meet the Artist on the Opening 28 October? 

I’ll be travelling to London myself and staying at my favorite affordable accommodation in The City – sadly I arrive 3 November, just a day too late for this show! But do stay tuned to my social media accounts, as I’ll be sharing London photos & travel tips from my trip. And for more info on The Doorway Gallery’s pop-up gallery in London, please see below:

The Doorway Gallery comes to London for one week!

October 26th – November 2nd  

The Chart Gallery,62 Old Church St, London SW3 6DP


The Whispering Room painting

The Whispering Room

The Doorway Gallery is resident to a beautiful Georgian building, located in the busy arts quarter of Dublin city centre. The gallery is spaciously spread out over two floors, filled with a broad variety of amazing creations. We are an affordable and affable Gallery, representing established Irish artists.The Doorway Gallery will exhibit in a unique pop-up gallery at The Chart Gallery, 62 Old Church Street, London SW3 6DP,  for one week only.

Immerse yourself in the best of Irish art, and take the opportunity to meet the Artist and see how they create. The Gallery launches with a bang, kicking off with a live demonstration from well-known Irish artist , Roisin O’Farrell.  Be there for the opening night of October 28th, between 6 and 9pm.

We will be exhibiting Christy Keeney’s latest work, as well as those by, Cormac O’Leary, Lucy Doyle, Roisin O’Farrell, Kate Beagan, Chris Wilson, Ken Browne, Heidi Wickham, Padraig McCaul, and many more.

Take the time to enjoy this unique experience, to find out for yourself what The Doorway Gallery has to offer. We are certain your visit won’t be a wasted one.

Gallery Hours: 10 – 7pm

Opening Launch: Tuesday 28th October

Time: 6-8pm

Address: The Chart Gallery, 62 Old Church Street, London SW3 6DP

More information:

Emilia - Romagna ItalyA Taste of Good Living in Romagna, Italy!

Discoveries of food, wine, thermal spas, nature & history await discovery in a less touristy area of Italy!

So that I can report back to you with tips, visiting info, and photos 🙂 I’m off to experience the Romagna part of Italy’s Emilia-Romagna area on 1 October to the 8th. That’s during the Week of Good Living (Settimana del Buonvivere in Italian,) and though I’m very excited to delve into this top notch foodie region of Italy, there is also something that is frightening me about it!

Chef Cannavacciuolo via

Chef Cannavacciuolo via


The Italian Gordon Ramsay, apparently ”known for the severity of his judgments and outstanding quality of his cuisine”, chef Antonino Cannavacciuolo, star of Italy’s Kitchen Nightmares, will be the guest of honor at the opening dinner of Buonvivere ‘Week of Good Living.’  But, no, it’s not him I’m yikes-ing about, it’s that this will be a gala dinner held in the stunning Teatro Verdi in Cesena, and I’m told I will need elegant dress for it! Uh oh… Janey Mac, I’ve not done elegant(ish) since my wedding! I’m really nervous about this… Italian people seem so naturally elegant, and I’m, well…short and fluffy. Ah well, at the same time I am also really excited to go to this dinner, and it turns out the hotel where I’ll be staying is right by a thermal springs spa— just the thing to relax your nerves! *Breathe*  🙂  


Got a bril skirt at Kilkenny’s vintage & more shop, Shutterbug. The very kind shop assistant gave me some good advice on what to put with it on my budget, & with a €2.50 tank top from Penney’s, some dangly earrings & the Shutterbug’s belt used as a scarf, I’m feeling  happy that I should be elegant enough– at under €60 all in. YAY! Plus, the skirt can easily be dressed down a bit; it won’t be a one-off wear. Very happy bunny here 😀

My  'elegant' outfit for the Semana Buon Vivere gala opening dinner! Got it all for under €60!

Success! My ‘elegant’ outfit for the Semana Buon Vivere gala opening dinner! Got it all for under €60!

See and Do

The Garden of  Herbs and Forgotten Trees in Casola ValSenio, and the romantic Abbey nearby — I’ll be letting you know about things like these. Plus, visits are planned revolving around the old ways of fishing in Romagna, local food products, (even cooking with flowers!) local wines, a trip to the 2nd largest aquarium in Italy, nature walks & more. Of course I’ll share plenty of photos of it all! Italy is extremely photogenic 😀 If you’d like to see a sample of the gorgeousness, below is a video on Cesena, one of the towns where we will be. You can also see the fabulous Teatro Verdi in it, home the aforementioned gala Buonvivere opening dinner. Do have a watch.

Mapped out

The first 6 days of this trip are as part of the Buon Vivere Week blogger’s tour I was invited on, and I’ll have a day or two afterwards on my own. I’ve made a Google map with some of the places we’ll be; it is at the very end of this post. All of us will be using the hashtag #romagnabuonvivere on Twitter, Instagram & Facebook so you can follow it to get a wide feel for the area through several eyes.

Here is a list of the blogs of the other participating Buon Vivere Week 2014 bloggers: buonvivere 2014 

If you’d like to see more from Buonvivere Week/ Week of Good Living‘s own website, click.

Their Facebook page is here. Using the Translate button is very helpful 🙂 

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I’m so looking forward to sharing it all with you, and Thank You to Alessandra and Settimana del Buonvivere for inviting me to experience this new-to-me region of Italy!

Vintage travel poster palace of Knossos Crete Greece

Vintage travel poster, Crete. Not one I would have seen in the windows 😉

What do you think of when you hear the word Crete?

My personal travel dream story & your Tips

When you live in Ireland or the UK you often think: holiday resort island, party, & sun when you hear the word Crete. But I grew up in the States, and from that distance Crete meant mysterious ancient Minoan palaces, myth, and history. Very intriguing for a nerd like me 🙂

When I first travelled across the Atlantic to Glasgow and saw the posters in travel agency windows advertising a week in Crete for just a couple of hundred pounds, I was gobsmacked, and excited. Imagine going to the fascinating island of Crete for so little! Why, it would be into the thousands from the US! In that moment the idea awoke in me of a life where there were myriad possibilities of travel to other countries. How lucky people living in Europe were, I thought. And from then on Crete began to symbolize the amazing  *actually affordable* possibility those who needn’t fly across huge distances have of being able to experience new countries & cultures. By God, I was envious!

I left Glasgow that summer of 1995 with my life in an enormous process of change. I’d lost my heart to Glasgow, and also to Ireland. In fact, less than a year later I was back, having sold my car & given away my belongings. I’d made the Big Move to Ireland, solo. Exciting! I loved it. But I was on such a tight budget for so many years after that there wasn’t a hope of a trip anywhere, no matter how ‘affordable.’  I didn’t get to explore my amazing travel dream. Until now.

Joyously, in the past 2 years, many travel opportunities have opened up for me, thanks to travel blogging and travel Birthday & Christmas gifts. And finally I’m going to Crete.


Crete; history, food, wine, nature

Crete Organic wine; Domaine Paterianakis 4 women one wine

Domaine Paterianakis– 4 women one wine. Pic via

Crete is intriguing to me now not just because of the history & myths of the Palace of Knossos and other sites, but because of the local food and new boutique wineries reinvigorating Crete’s ancient wine tradition. In particular, thanks to a tweet by Wines Of Crete, this recent article on Crete’s wines in The SOMM Journal got me interested in the small organic winery Domaine Paterianakis, also the only Crete winery run by women.

Trying different wines is enjoyable, even if you are like me & aren’t a knowledgeable wine person. I’m a total learning nerd, and like to find out about the work & traditions that help to make different wines special. I may see if I can visit the Paterianakis winery, and perhaps a couple others on my visit– I’ll drink some Cretan wines, for sure, whether I visit wineries or not!

Of course, enjoying that famous sun is important to me, too! Living in Ireland, we are a bit obsessed with the sun, and get outside in it any chance we get. I’d like to get out and enjoy that sun in the more natural side of Crete rather than a packed out resort beach, so I’m researching where to do so. I’ll be solo, on a budget & not driving, so I’m staying in an airbnb studio outside of Heraklion where it will be easy to catch the bus to different places. The studio has a small kitchen so I can cook, & I plan to go to the farm market for some local products–and enjoy them with Cretan wine! Writing this reminds me- I must look for local recipes 🙂 Do you have any?

vintage 1940s travel poster Greece

Vintage fabulousness: 1940s travel poster for Greece

Book Lovers & Travel

Reading travel writing & guidebooks are special loves of mine. I also like to read a up on a bit of history or other non-fiction on the area I’m visiting, and some good quality fiction set in the area too. Guide-wise, I’ve gotten the Rough Guide to Crete, and the handy Top 10 Crete, too. I find it good to start with digesting the Top 10 for the easy format overviews, then expand with the bigger guide books and in deeper looking around online. I’d love to hear your suggestions on what to read for Crete, and Athens too, where I’ll be for #TBEX after Crete.

In the comments I’ve gotten a great book tip for Athens from Agata of, (thank you!) and I’ll share it here, too:

Hi Susan, what a great post! I share this passion of yours and read many travel books before I go to a place. This time of the year I’m preparing myself to visit Athens and I found a marvelous book I would like to recommend to you. It’s “92 Acharnon Street. A Year in Athens” by John Lucas, published by Eland. The books describes adventures of an English professor of literature who spent an academic year in Athens. All his ups and downs, his delight with greek people, food and culture and above all: greek poetry. The author is really successful in terms of describing the real life of this hectic city and it makes this book very easy to read! I hope to discuss it further with you in Athens, over a glass of wine! P.S. If you wonder where to buy this excellent book I’m pasting a direct link to it right here:

Recommendations & Tips — can YOU help?

To fine tune a trip for maximum enjoyment, recommendations & insider tips are priceless. The forums on Tripadvisor and other travel sites can be very helpful, as can travel and local area bloggers. Most of these folk are really happy to give you some individual tips if you have a question or two, and it is worth having a look around on social media for Tweeters etc in the area you’re visiting. I do Twitter searches & then make a Twitter list on my visit area. Doing the same with Facebook can be great, too.

I came across Joanna Kalafatis on a Twitter travel chat, and she was happy help answer any questions. Her post on Why Greece Will Always Be My First Love will have you looking for flights!

Do YOU know of some Crete – Athens – Greece websites, blogs, social media that I should check out?

Do YOU  have tips on Crete, or Athens? Especially the wider Heraklion area of Crete?

I also may do a day trip to Rethymno, but don’t think I can go much further as I don’t have time this visit.( My main interests are in cultural travel: history, arts, crafts, design, local food and nature, but do share any other top tips you may have too!)

If so, thank you very much, and please leave your  recommendations & tips in the comments down below, or tweet me at @VibrantIreland ,or comment on my Facebook Page. Cheers! Susan 😀

Be sure to check out this blast-from-the-past 1960’s British Pathe video on Crete, tweeted by Visit Crete, a fab Crete twitter account to follow.


Enjoy excellent italian wine with iloveFerrara

Enjoy excellent italian wine with iloveFerrara


Fantastic, no matter what you do on your visit. But getting beyond typical tourist spots to experience more local flavour with is even better!

This is why I want to introduce you to Agata, who has started the exciting endeavour of I’ve known Agata for a while now, and we are planning an extensive trip together next year. She has got to be one the most organized people I’ve ever known, as well as being one of the most upbeat. I am really pleased to be able to help showcase here, so have a read:


Campanile od the Duomo, seen from the main square

Holiday with a blogger

Although there are hundreds of travel blogs and you are probably a reader of some of them it is not that often when you actually can join the bloggers themselves. They are telling beautiful stories about places they visited and the pictures of local food make you hungry. If you wish to join one of them this project is for you!

Agata and her blog

Meet Agata: she is a traveler, writer and photographer, and one of these people whose pictures make you hungry! She lived in Italy for many years and traveled around the world. She runs a popular travel blog Null&Full and she enjoys her travels very much.

Time to share

Travel gives a lot of pleasure and brings a lot of energy to your life. And it is the best thing on earth if there is someone you can share it with. Thus, Agata thought her idea ‘Holiday with a blogger’ is a perfect combination. So here is the thing: this September you can join her and spend a week in Ferrara on tasting best Italian food, wines and having fun!

Italy at its best

Italy is easy to love! Everyone agrees with that. It is even more true when you have someone who speaks Italian, knows local habits and guides you through the Italian way of life. Living in Italy made Agata aware of all local particularities so her idea is to give you an opportunity to experience the best part of it.

And this is how a project called was created. An essence of Italy at your fingertips! Join Agata this September and she will guide you through Ferrara, best Italian food and wine, and a super cool event: Street Dinner.

Book today and join the party!

Have fun in Ferrara! Be sure to send Vibrant Ireland a social-media  postcard!

New Year 2014 clock Top tips from 2013! Give some a try in 2014 – an enjoyable type of resolution.

2013 was a busy year, and I experienced many wonderful places, foods, and events in Ireland and abroad. Here are some that really stood out, and you may like to try for yourself.




This year Campagne in Kilkenny City nosed out The Tannery in Dungarvan, Waterford as my favorite restaurant for a special occasion. The Michelin Star folk loved it as well, awarding it a Star. This is only one of the awards Campagne has garnered this year. Whatever about all that, your taste buds will be the best judge, and I think they’ll be very pleased. Do NOT skip dessert here. And if you’re on more of a budget (like us,) lunch & the early bird dinner are great value.

Dear people, there are SO many good places to eat in Ireland, across all price points. Another wonderful restaurant I ate at in 2013 was Bang in Dublin. These are just 2 of the best that I ate at for the first time in 2013, and that I’ve now eaten in more than once.


Fab Food Trails Dublin Ireland ; Sheridans Cheese

Sheridan’s was a delicious stop on the Fab Food Trail tour.

Food Experience

Fab Food Trails of Ireland are lead in Cork and in Dublin, where I did mine. A tour with them is a wonderful way to graze on top grub whilst exploring the city & its history as well as its food. Yep, they are fabulous- and for visitors and locals alike.


Food Products

This year we discovered several lip-smacking new-to-us Irish food items. One that I can’t stop craving is the treacle scone from Gleeson’s in Roscommon. As well as their Townhouse accomodation, they’ve a restaurant, cafe, and a deli in Roscommon Town. We booked their ‘Taste of the West’ package and it was on this holiday that I discovered the scones. (Note: their dinner was delicious too, and we choose to eat at Gleesons both nights!) In fact, Roscommon is the proverbial hidden gem in regards to a foodie mini-holiday, with the fantastic craft beer( & cool live music) pub JJ Harlow’s there on The Square as well. Now when anyone I know is near Roscommon I tell them they need to go get a treacle scone &/or a craft beer!


craft-beer JJ Harlow's pub, Roscommon, Ireland

Terry loved chatting to the craft-beer loving people at JJ Harlow’s pub, Roscommon

 A Tasty Tip for 2014

Starting Saturday, 25 January 2014, Biabeag (Irish for small food) will be holding events around artisan food products and producers. The first delicious & interesting offering is on real bread, with 3 dedicated breadmakers from around Ireland sharing their stories and their wares. Come to Kilkenny and enjoy!



Venice is full of delicious food, but has mediocre yet expensive food as well. When you’re a food lover on a budget, this can be frustrating. One of the best things we did to remedy it was to get the local insider information on a Walks of Italy food tour.


Red wine & good times on the Venice Food Tour, with Kristina from Walks of italy

Red wine & good times on the Venice Food Tour, with Kristina from Walks of Italy

Venice: Eating out in the Castello area

We stayed in the residential area of Castello (wonderful!) and one of our local bars, El Refolo, was very welcoming, with nice cicchetti to snack on. Located on the wide Via Garibaldi, El Refolo is an ace spot for pretending to be Venetian, people watching and chatting while sipping a drink. Terry greatly enjoyed the Menabrea dark Italian beer they had at El Refolo, and it became his favorite spot of an evening 🙂

On the more westerly side of Castello, we had a lovely, reasonably priced meal with very good service at Trattoria da Jonny. My seafood pasta was heaped with different varieties.


Eating with Art

If you are enjoying a bit of culture in the Peggy Guggenheim Museum, I also recommend the cafe. Lunch here overlooking the sculpture garden was delicious– the seasonal pumpkin ravioli and pancetta & chicory mini- gnocchi were as beautiful as the garden 🙂

If you love food and love to cook, another food tip for Venice is to look into renting an apartment so you can take advantage of being able to cook the wonderful produce available in the markets. We certainly drooled every time we passed them!


Here’s to a fantastic 2014 for us all– may it be full of wonderful food, friends and fun!

Have a Happy and colorful 2014

Have a Happy & Vibrant 2014!